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Buried Alive: Managing The Avalanche Of E-mail And Paper

The average employee today has about 37 hours of unfinished work sitting on his/her desk at any given time.* Piles of files on a desk or hundreds of emails in an Inbox are not just indicators of a lot of work yet to be done. For many, it means they need help getting organized in a tangible way. You may ask yourself, "Can the volume of work be the cause of disorganization or is there a simpler explanation?” For many, the answer is simple yet complex. What is it? Simply put: It is the inability to make decisions. If you don't believe me, take a closer look at some of the "stuff" you have sitting in your office right now.

Clutter is a result of delayed decisions. Every time you make a decision on what to do with an item, whether it is an email in the Inbox or a piece of paper, you are one step closer to being organized and one step further away from having clutter. When it comes to the elements of email and paper, learn to become a quick decision maker. E-Mail While there’s no argument email has improved the way we do business, it has definitely brought complications with its sheer volume and potential for interruptions. Here are a few tips in managing email: • Allow yourself 15-20 minutes at the start of each day to skim over your Inbox.

Make decisions quickly on as many as possible. Your options include: Delete, Forward, Save, File, Schedule an appointment or create a task for future attention. • Try to limit the amount of times you check your email each day to four to six times. For some, this is easier said than done. If you check your email 15 times in an average 8-hour day, you’re interrupting your focus every 32 minutes. • Shut off any type of instant messaging service or email notification. The notifiers that appear in the lower corner of your computer screen are like toddlers pulling at your pant leg. They continue to beg for your attention until you stop what you’re doing and turn to them. Interruptions lower productivity levels and email is no exception. • Set up appropriate folders in your email management program.

Making quick decisions on email will be easier once you have the proper folders established. Because mail stored here many times counts against your storage quota, look at these files as a place to store emails related to current projects only. • Set up rules to presort your email. You can decide to sort emails automatically into file folders instead of allowing them to land in your Inbox. Then when you’re ready to focus on a particular project, that file folder already contains any pertinent emails. Paper Management It’s been estimated we use 20% of our possessions 80% of the time. If we apply this to paper are we really only using 20% of the paper bulging from our filing cabinets? Hard to imagine, but quite possibly true.Here are a few tips to implement in your quest to better manage the paper found in your office: • Establish a system for receiving, reviewing and storing your daily mail. This may be a simple inbox sitting near or on your desk. The important thing is to have a specific place designated to hold incoming items.

• When it comes to filing, remember the mantra “You file to retrieve. You do not file to store.” Files exist to aid us, not to deter us. Make sure you’re filing items in a way that will allow you to retrieve them quickly and only save the documents that are truly necessary. • Take a good look at your current files. Do you know the contents of all of your files? Are others able to retrieve items in your absence? Are they easily accessible with space for future growth? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, chances are you need to spend some time sorting and purging. • Don’t be tempted by the copier machine. If you are saving a document electronically, you probably don’t have to save a hard copy too. Organized offices and homes drive productivity, increase efficiency and help you juggle the demands of both. As you develop systems to keep you organized, you will be able to transform your life, not just your space.

* Source: Marlene Caroselli, author of Empower Yourself.


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